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For 50 years, the safety behind your success.

  • This year the Personal Safety Division is celebrating the 50-year anniversary of the first U.S. Government-approved 3M filtering facepiece respirator (a precursor to what is now known as the N95), and the 3M E-A-R Classic Ear Plug.

    Here at 3M one thing remains the same when it comes to developing personal protective equipment (PPE). We apply science to life, helping protect worker health and safety on the job for employees today and tomorrow. Learn more about the history of our advancements and where we are going next…

Infographic: 2022 50 years of health and safety leadership
  • 8710E disposable respirator.

    Introduced the United States’ first federal-government approved single-use filtering facepiece respirator

    In 1972, 3M debuted what the world knows today as the N95 filtering facepiece respirator. The facepiece was lightweight and easy to use, enabling workers to focus on the task at hand in challenging environments.

    Debuted the E-A-R™ Classic™ Foam Earplug

    3M had one more transformative introduction in store for 1972—a foam earplug that remains one of the most widely used earplugs in the world.1 The E-A-R Classic used a proprietary closed cell slow recovery material to provide an exceptional combination of comfort and attenuation.

  • 3M™ Speedglas™ welder.

    Released Speedglas™ auto-darkening technology— helping protect welders from UV and IR light

    Developed the first qualitative fit test for filtering facepiece respirators

    In the 1980s, 3M sought to further advance respiratory protection solutions. 3M safety specialists took a science-based approach to creating an effective fit testing method. The method was accepted by OSHA as a qualitative fit test protocol and included in their respiratory protection standard.

  • Construction worker wearing a self-retracting lifeline.

    Introduced 3M™ E-A-R™ Express™ Pod Earplugs— eliminating the need to “roll down” foam earplugs

    Released the 3M™ DBI-SALA® Sealed-Blok™ Self-Retracting Lifeline

    This innovative self-retracting lifeline helped workers take a more proactive approach to fall protection. It was the first to seal its components from harsh environmental conditions, adding assurance to everyday processes.

    Developed a half facepiece reusable respirator

    Featuring replaceable filter media cartridges, this innovation would lay the groundwork for our offering today of a wide variety of cartridges that help reduce exposure to a variety of gases and vapors as well as particulates.

  • Womean wearing 3M™ PELTOR™ protective communications solution.

    Introduced 3M™ PELTOR™ LiteCom integrated 2-way radio headsets—featuring ambient surround listening ability

    Released 3M™ VFlex™ Particulate Respirator

    With fold-flat design and V-shaped pleats.

    Introduced 3M™ Versaflo™

    A powered air purifying and supplied air respirator system.

    Introduced full-body suit protective coveralls

    For working with hazardous materials.

  • Medical workers wearing disposable particulate respirators.

    Released 3M™ DBI-SALA® ExoFit™ STRATA™ Full Body Harness—designed with innovative load distribution system to enhance worker comfort

    Responded to COVID-19

    The arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic led to 3M manufacturing respirators at an extraordinary pace. 3M was already producing 35 million N95 respirators per month by March of 2020. By year’s end, two billion had been produced and distributed to first responders and other critical infrastructure workers.

    Increased production globally of 3M™ Aura™ Particulate Respirator 9205+

    Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, providing respirators with a high fit test pass rate has been more important than ever before. Quantitative fit testing has shown that the Aura Particulate Respirator can achieve up to a 93% fit test pass rate.*

    *Based on quantitative fit testing in the 3M United States Fit Test Laboratory in April-May 2021 of subjects with a range of face sizes (face sizes 1 through 10 on the NIOSH bivariate grid (PDF, 422.93 KB)). A passing fit factor is defined as 100, based on OSHA 1910.134. The 3M™ Aura™ Healthcare Particulate Respirator and Surgical Mask 1870+ was tested. These results are applicable to 3M™ Aura™ Particulate Respirators 9205+ and 9210+ as described in the U.S OSHA Position on Respirator Fit Testing during COVID-19 (PDF, 113.55 KB). Individual results may vary. For more information, view this 3M Respirator Fit Study (PDF, 312.16 KB).


  • Workers wearing personal protective equipment in metal foundry.

    Continuing to foster cultures of safety and health

    Today, 3M continues to advance worker health and safety with innovation across dozens of industries.

    Emergency Response Versatility

    From natural disasters to global pandemics, 3M has spent five decades helping supply first responders, healthcare personnel and other critical infrastructure workers with the PPE they need.

    Leadership in Training

    3M has demonstrated its commitment to customer education. Onsite and online training, product demos and phone consultations are just some of the ways 3M has helped protect workers from the start.

Learn More About the 3M Science of Safety

  • Learn more about the history and innovations behind 3M N95 respiratory protection and earplug hearing protection.

  • Whether you’re a safety professional, Occupational Hygienist, someone with any level of WHS responsibility in the workplace, a user of safety equipment, or a safety nerd, then this is the podcast for you!

  • Use our step-by-step tools to help ensure safety programs are achieved for your respiratory protection program.

  • Use our step-by-step tools to help ensure safety programs are achieved for your hearing conservation program.